Politics of the Contemporary Student Left: Hopes and Failures
Panel presentation at Left Forum 2009: "Turning Points," Pace University, NYC, April 17-19, 2009
Young people’s heightened participation in politics in the run-up to the election of Barack Obama was crucial to his election and cannot be ignored. The burning post-election questions that the Left must answer are 1) what are the current politics of youth and student organizations and 2) how can the mobilization of youths and students be expanded and deepened? This panel aims to explore these questions by critically reflecting upon the politics of two of the largest and most successful Left student organizations of recent times: the new Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS). The panelists will engage these organizations by examining the various perspectives currently influencing them, and explore how these ideas affect their means and ends. This requires us to delve into their current politics, principles, and practice with relation to the history of Left student activism, as well as the history of the Left as a whole. We hope this panel will not only provide insight into the failures of the student Left, but also begin a serious discussion within these organizations and the Left at-large of what the revolutionary potential of such struggle can be.
A panel discussion with: Alexander L. Hanna (chair): former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops Atlee McFellin: Students for a Democratic Society, New School Radical Student Union Pam Nogales: Platypus (New York) C. J. Pereira Di Salvo: former organizer for United Students Against Sweatshops Laurie Rojas: Platypus (Chicago), former member of Students for a Democratic Society